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June 21, 2021 0 Comments

PR Lingo: 12 Terms to Know Before Hiring a PR Agency

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Interested in hiring a PR agency to bolster your brand? Like any industry, public relations has its own lingo that may sound like word salad to those who have never worked with an agency before. Understanding PR jargon is essential to establishing your company’s goals and vetting proposals from prospective PR agencies. 


To ensure you’re set up for success as you seek out the team that will run point on your next successful PR campaign, we’ve compiled a list of the basic terms you need to know before teaming up with a potential PR agency partner! 


  1. Press release – This is the most common — and most often misused — word in the PR playbook. At its core, a press release is simply a written statement to the press. Its purpose is to disclose major company announcements, hard news and official public statements such as financial announcements, important partnerships, new hires or product releases. Traditionally, a press release is distributed over a wire service, for a fee, to newspapers and broadcasting outlets. As an added benefit, a savvy PR practitioner knows this can be a great tool for SEO and securing media coverage, as part of a larger PR strategy.


  1. Byline  In journalism, this term refers to the line of text below a news headline, indicating the author’s name. In PR, there’s a bit more nuance. This term in PR may also refer to a contributed article or guest column from a thought leader or industry expert, printed in a traditional news outlet and attributed to that thought leader. A bylined article may be penned by the thought leader, or ghost-written by a professional copywriter. The best bylined articles are non-promotional, and written with great respect paid to the outlet’s editorial standards.


  1. PR plan – An effective PR plan provides the roadmap for a public relations campaign. Most cover a specific timeframe to establish annual, bi-annual or quarterly strategies and goals. A good PR plan is also adaptable and can be revised as needed to accommodate new developments or press opportunities that may arise over time.


  1. Embargo – A news embargo is an agreement between a PR practitioner and a journalist to discuss confidential news in advance of its public release. Under an embargo agreement, the journalist agrees not to publish the news until the predetermined announcement date. An experienced PR publicist may use this tool to secure media coverage of a client’s story in multiple news outlets, in preparation for a large announcement. It’s important to note: an embargo is not the same as an exclusive. We’ll cover that next.


  1. Exclusive – With a media exclusive, a PR practitioner offers one journalist exclusive access to an important piece of news, with the promise that they will be the only journalist with advance access to the information. In turn, that journalist can break the story on an agreed-upon release date. The story can then be released to other media outlets after the exclusive story runs. 


  1. Boilerplate – A boilerplate is a concise, standardized description of a company or brand. These are most often used to describe a company in press releases, in media activities, on their website and in other official press capacities.


  1. Press kit – A press kit, also known as a media kit or press backgrounder, is a neatly-packaged overview of a brand or company’s services, story and current initiatives. A good press kit includes all of the necessary assets to make it easy for reporters to learn about a product or brand, including access to press-ready photos and marketing materials that can be used in a news story.


  1. Holding statement – A holding statement is a pre-prepared statement, often used in crisis communications. An organization may release a holding statement as an immediate response to an unexpected event. A good holding should acknowledge the concerns of the public while also providing an expected timeline for a more robust company response. For a holding statement to be effective, it is critical that an experienced PR professional has reviewed the statement prior to its release, for strategic oversight. 


  1. Briefing document – A briefing document, might also be called a briefing sheet, media briefer or interview memo. No matter its name, this is a document designed to prepare a spokesperson for a media interview. Most briefing documents contain information on the news outlet, the reporter’s professional background and logistic details. A good briefing document also includes key messaging, proposed talking points and notes to guide interview responses, and potential questions the report might ask (a knowledgeable PR pro can typically anticipate what those might be!)


  1. Messaging document – Messaging documents offer a comprehensive overview of the approved language, narrative and key messages for a brand or company. Typically written by a professional publicist or copywriter, a good messaging document provides a concise, yet thorough look into the company’s key offerings and value propositions. A messaging document should also contain any relevant brand narratives or founder stories, approved for public or internal use.


  1. Ed cal – An ed cal, or editorial calendar, is a content calendar used and distributed by news outlets and magazines. An ed cal provides an overview of upcoming content and themes for the coming year — and they can be useful tools for savvy PR practitioners. Your PR team might use an ed cal to identify key trends and potential media opportunities in advance, based on those anticipated themes and topics.


  1. Round-up – A round-up is a type of article featuring multiple products, brands or leaders within a certain industry or category. Often, a round-up describes the best names or products in a given category, or weighs multiple products against one another in terms of price, quality or effectiveness. In PR, a practitioner might target roundup lists as a way to introduce key media outlets to their client’s brand, and to secure coverage among other industry-leading brands. 

Now that you’re up to speed on what these common PR terms mean, you can walk into your next agency proposal meeting with confidence! And if you’d like to see us sitting across the (virtual) table at that meeting — let’s connect! We can help identify the PR strategies and tactics that can help you reach your target audiences faster and more effectively, and to move your next company goal across the finish line. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the PR terminology when you need it!


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Kristin Nystie